Teenage pregnancy on the rise in Australia

August 29th, 2010 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Aug 29 (IANS) Teenage pregnancy is on the rise in Australia and the number of births to teenage mothers has increased by 10 percent after steady decline for decades, latest data has revealed.
The most recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the number of Victorian teenage mothers in 2008 was 12,326, up 7.7 percent from 2007. New South Wales got the biggest jump, 15 per cent, with the number of teen mothers rising from 2788 to 3226.

Nationally, the teenage fertility rate for the period has risen by 8.1 per cent, according to The Age.

While some health professionals are concerned, others say the increase is in line with the country’s overall baby boom.

Patricia Weerakoon, co-ordinator of the University of Sydney’s graduate program in sexual health, said teenagers were becoming sexually active earlier, putting themselves at risk of sexually transmissible illnesses and unplanned pregnancies. “Kids are having more sex and they are having risky sex,” she said.

Despite the increase, Australia’s teenage fertility rate of 17 per 1000 teens is still much lower than the US at 51 per 1000; Britain, 27 per 1000; and New Zealand, 26 per 1000, the report said. But it is higher than many European countries including Germany, 10 per 1000; France, eight per 1000; and the Netherlands, four per 1000.

Teenagers, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, needed more information about sexual health, said Juliet Richters, of the University of NSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

“Australia is only doing medium-well in terms of providing support and sex education to young women,” she said.

“Young women in the 14, 15, 16-year-old age group who become pregnant tend to be at risk to start with,” she said. “A lot of them don’t necessarily want to have the baby.”

Anthony Smith from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University, said supporting teenage mothers was critical, particularly when it came to helping them complete their education.

But most women under 20 who had babies were in their late teens and the pregnancies might be planned as part of a committed relationship, he said.

“Most of the teen pregnancies do, in fact, occur in the 18, 19-year age bracket,” he added.

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